Open Source

Open source? No good for cost cutting, say CIOs

CIO Jury: Hidden costs mean open source software isn't always an IT budget stretcher

Despite tough economic conditions, CIOs have not turned to open source software as a way of making their IT budgets go further, according to silicon.com's latest exclusive CIO Jury.

Because it lacks the expensive licensing that is often the hallmark of proprietary software, open source is regularly touted as a way for IT departments to make their budget stretch a little bit further and it has already enjoyed considerable success in certain areas of the enterprise, such as web servers.

However, when asked if they had chosen open source software as a way of cutting their costs during the recession, just two of the 12-strong jury said yes.

In contrast, several CIOs said the costs of migrating to open source and the associated expenditure on retraining staff serve as a disincentive for adoption.

According to Peter Birley, director of IT and business operations at Browne Jacobson LLP, such costs are often greater than potential savings.

open source software CIO Jury

CIOs might not save as much as they think from open source software
(Photo credit: JasonRogersFooDogGiraffeBee via Flickr.com under the following Creative Commons licence)

"Regardless of any possible functional benefits of an open source system, the cost of change and retraining would outweigh any benefits certainly in the short term and the project would distract from other more pressing needs," he said.

Retraining costs also figure into SMEs' thinking around open source adoption. Alan Bawden, IT & operations director at The JM Group said for most SME organisations, open source is not an option for two key reasons: the cost and difficulty in finding the specialised IT talent to configure and support the software, and end users' lack of familiarity with the software.

"This could add 'hidden' costs in the form of additional training and time lost with users familiarising themselves with the new system," he said.

Andrew Wayland, CIO of Michael Page International, agreed there can be costs that are not immediately apparent with open source software. "You have to do this with your eyes open, as there are hidden costs that don't immediately present themselves. Building enterprise systems based upon open source software means you end up having to pay to manage the additional risks," he said.

Paul Haley, director of information technology at the University of Aberdeen said the total cost of migrating to open source, coupled with the size of educational discounts on proprietary software, means "it does not represent a practicable solution".

"A more effectual way of managing cost is by ensuring appropriately managed and optimised licence management. This does not mean that there is not an important role for open source, just that it is not necessarily an appropriate mechanism for cost reduction," he added.

This week's CIO Jury was:

  • Alan Bawden, IT & operations director, The JM Group
  • Peter Birley, director of IT and business operations, Browne Jacobson
  • Chris Ford, IT director, Nottingham City Council
  • Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • Adam Gerrard, CIO, Avis Europe
  • Paul Haley, director of information technology, University of Aberdeen
  • Jane Kimberlin, IT director, Domino's Pizza
  • David Pirie, group IT director, BCA
  • Jacques René, CIO, Ascend
  • Richard Storey, head of IT, Guys & St Thomas Hospital
  • David Supple, head of IT and creative services, Ecotec Research and Consulting
  • Andrew Wayland, CIO, Michael Page International

Want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT departments? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

About Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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